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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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High performance and sustainability are the key trends of food packaging.
High performance and sustainability are the key trends of food packaging.

The increasing requirements from consumers are driving the technological developments of plastic applications in the food and beverage (F&B) packaging sector. Material suppliers and machine manufacturers are flexing their robust capability to design game-changing solutions for high performing packaging of the future.

New generation of sustainable and high barrier polymer for PET bottles

Sustainability and high barrier function are the high requirements for food and beverage packaging from consumers at present. A combination of both will be even more sought after in the market. The latest Solvay-Husky partnership is an excellent demonstration for adopting this trend, which provides a new generation of sustainable and high barrier packaging solutions to the beverage market.
Solvay Specialty Polymers partnered with Husky to introduce new sustainable packaging solutions for PET bottles.
For the first time in North America, Solvay Specialty Polymers demonstrated its new Verian High Barrier Polyester (HBP) on Husky Injection Molding Systems’ booth at NPE 2018.

Verian HBP is an innovative, recyclable line of high-performance polymers developed by Solvay Specialty Polymers in partnership with Husky, and enables a new generation of sustainable packaging solutions for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and films.

It is used as a barrier layer embedded in PET, which enables the introduction of smaller-volume PET bottles with enhanced barrier performance required to meet the shelf life requirements of carbonated soft drinks. It is an excellent melt processable carbon-dioxide barrier polymer for packaging solutions used in current bottle technology for carbonated soft drinks and other beverages.

The material is not a homogenous mono material solution, but a multilayer structure for bottles and films with Verian HBP used as a middle layer, according to Solvay Specialty Polymers.

As said, a multilayer structure with just 2.5% Verian HBP as middle layer has a barrier improvement factor of five compared to PET and of three compared to a multilayer structure with nylon.

Therefore, it’s a barrier solution that doesn‘t disrupt the high-quality PET recycling chain, using it as a barrier layer allows packaging lightweighting, which will reduce significantly the PET quantity needed for making bottles. In addition, Solvay expects to use the material to create barrier films as well.

Meanwhile, Husky has developed a breakthrough technology allowing a thin barrier layer (just 2-3% of the added material) in a co-injected multilayer structure for preforms to be stretch blow molded on existing equipment for bottles.

Enhanced material properties for very lightweight caps and closures

Lightweight packaging means less materials are used, which is an effective alternative to achieve higher sustainability. Materials suppliers are making effort to develop new materials and processing technologies to satisfy lightweight requirements.

SABIC will be introducing new innovative materials for lightweight packaging applications, including caps and closures.SABIC is reinforcing its activities in the plastics caps and closures market. Its caps and closure portfolio spans all types of polyethylenes (PE) and polypropylene (PP), through to engineering plastics like polycarbonate.

The company has announced that it will be adding more innovative materials later this year, including a new HDPE that makes it possible to cut weight in caps for carbonated soft drinks.

The new multi-modal grade of HDPE with excellent organoleptics is developed for this major application. It combines an excellent environmental stress cracking resistance (ESCR) with good flow, allowing cap manufacturers to design very lightweight closures.

SABIC HDPE CCX027C polymer exhibits strong shear thinning, which means that even though it has a relatively low MFI (0.8 g/10 min, 2.16 kg), its flow characteristics during injection molding are similar to those of a unimodal HDPE with an MFI more than three times higher.

According to SABIC, improvements to ESCR and physical properties like stiffness and impact strength will enable extra lightweighting, reductions in required processing temperatures will help processors save energy and cut cycle times, and even better organoleptics will meet needs for caps that have no effect on the taste of packaging contents (especially important for bottled water).

In addition to developing innovative materials for better sustainability, SABIC is also contributing to a more sustainable packaging industry by partially replacing crude oil with renewable feedstocks in its production of PE and PP. Properties of the partly bio-based plastics are identical to those made from non-renewables alone.

Newly developed by SCG Chemical, the SMX Technology can be used to produce innovative PE resins with enhanced mechanical properties. This newest technology was one of the company’s highlights at CHINAPLAS this year.

As a key Asian manufacturer and supplier of a full range of petrochemical products ranging from upstream monomers to downstream polymers including PE, PP, PVC, SCG Chemicals sells to more than 150 countries over the world in addition to Thailand, its home country.

To demonstrate the benefits of the SMX Technology, the company showcased a 1.5kg brick held in a bag made of a 3-micron thick “Super Thin Film” versus a brick of the same weight held in a bag made of a 10-micron thick HDPE film.

Converters and formulators can reduce the thickness of the film, hence saving materials, while having better mechanical properties, explained Thanapat Kaweetraiphop, Food & Beverage Business Director of SCG Chemicals.

The SMX Technology can also be applied to the production of caps and closures of lighter weight.

While generally a cap weighs above 2g each, with the SMX Technology, we’ve also come up with 1.8g caps. People can save the Earth by using less material thanks to improved material properties,” added Mr Thanapat.

New machine for efficient flexible packaging applications

In addition to material innovations, the increasing demand from packaging market also drives the evolution of machines which can facilitate the new applications and efficient production at lower cost.
The flexible packaging market in Asia is growing due to the rise of the middle class.
The global flexible packaging market is on a growth curve and the increasing demand from Asia is the driving engine. In order to meet the particular requirements from convertors and producers in this region, Davis-Standard, LLC is targeting to launch the new machine dsX flex-pack 300S in this year.

About 50% of Davis-Standard’s sales come from the food packaging related industries and therefore the business growth of the company is strong.

The flexible packaging market in Asia is growing due to the rise of the middle class. Consumers and producers are looking for products of high quality,” said Sekaran Murugaiah, Vice President, Business Development, Asia Pacific, at CHINAPLAS 2018.

In addition, for food flexible packaging, there is one very important trend, the Chinese market is looking for more environmental friendly products,” he remarked. “As the Chinese government focuses on sustainability, the producers make sure their machines are of right energy consumption level, and produce with the right materials.”

The new dsX flex-pack 300S is an extrusion coating and lamination machine developed for films, foils and paper, which demonstrates Davis-Standard’s commitment to the Asian market.

This new machine utilizes Davis-Standard’s proven co-extrusion technology for the flexible packaging applications, and offers cost efficiency, flexibility in operations as well as short product change-overs, according to Sekaran Murugaiah.

The working width of the machine is from 650 to 1350 mm, the process speed is 300 mpm, and the tension range is from 50 – 500 N/m.

In the US and Europe, converters usually work with high speed machines as they produce single product in one week without change-overs. Meanwhile, in China and other Asian countries, the producers changes different products frequently in production. In that case, they need to run with more flexible but lower speed machines to reduce energy and materials wastages during change-overs, explained Sekaran Murugaiah.

Coffee capsule will be the next whirlwind

At CHINAPLAS, SACMI showcased its state-of-the-art cap manufacturing and quality control technologies at its display area. A full range of Sacmi products was also displayed.
The demand for single dose solutions like coffee capsule is expected to grow.
In the last few years, we put a lot of efforts on the Industry 4.0 to improve the performance of our machinery, arranging and organizing all the data that is possible to store on the machinery. So, users can have all information to reduce the total cost of their ownership,” said Raffaella Ghetti, Closures, Containers, and Pet Div. Closures Business Director at SACMI.

Through the range of CCM (Continuous Compression Moulding) compression presses, SACMI offered one of the lowest cycle times in the industry, achieving productivity as high as 2,000 caps per minute with just 48 moulds.

Offering intrinsic advantages in terms of productivity, energy savings and reliability, compression technology operates at lower temperatures, thus reducing on-material stress and extending the working life of both machine and plant, according to SACMI.

“Beverage is our most important market. But now we are also offering in another different market – the coffee capsule market. It is a market in our scenario and it is growing in Europe and North America,” added Raffaella Ghetti.

She believes that the single dose solution will become something common everywhere. The coffee capsule is not only for coffee, it can be for milk, tea or any kind of solution.

In the western culture, it is pleasant to reduce the consumption of sugar. “People start to drink more water, and the water with some aromatic product. The single dose can be used in this type of application,” continued Raffaella Ghetti.

The continuous hydraulic compression press, which is used for producing caps, can also be available for the production of plastic capsules. The production process occurs by extruding a mix of materials, cutting the extruded material into single pellets, inserting them in the cavity and, lastly, forming the capsule according to a specifically defined profile.

 “What is more challenge about coffee capsule is the multi-layer product. The material can be PP, ABS or EVOH, even bio-based compounds in the future,” explained Raffaella Ghetti.

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